To be honest this approach of aftermarket bonanza is going to the way of the dinosaurs. MiniArt has just announced a T-55A with full interior.
Finally finished with most of the build. Getting closer to the end… Smaller jobs are finished. I did the back of the turret as best as I could. I zoomed into the box art photos of the Miniarm set, and tried to figure out what goes where. Somewhat unsuccessfully, since the instructions are frankly quite bad, too. (The PE parts are not numbered correctly for one. As mentioned the reference photos are bad, too…) The extra magazines for the machine gun mounted on the back had some hiccups. First of all I only had five in my set, not six. Second the PE straps that should have been going around them were short. What I did was simply cutting the straps in the middle, and attaching them to the front first. I added the handgrabs, and the wires to the smoke candles – soldering wire is incredibly useful for these tasks.
Well, I did the best I could -and had patience for; this will have to suffice.
I also attached the mounting points for the anti-HEAT sideskirts. Many tanks were not equipped with it, but since they are there, I might as well use them. I started with the middle section on the left side, as it has a special shape (due to the exhaust port), and used it as a reference point for the rest. The back unit is shorter than it should be, and the front overhangs a bit; somewhat annoying but easy to solve with a blade. (I simply fitted the cut off piece from the front to the back.) I’ll leave the side-skirts off for the time being; they will be attached once the main color is applied.
Tamiya wants you to make your own towing cables; it certainly makes more sense than MiniArt’s optimistic approach of prividing them as straight plastic parts. I normally use picture hanging wires for this role; it’s very life-like, and behaves like cable.
I snapped a couple of photos using my phone (hence the quality), and called it finished.
So this is where I am right now. The tank needs a base coat, and then painting can commence.
After some finishing touches to the interior, I closed the turret down. It really bothers me that I could not find a good reference for the AM version; I suspect there are a lot of screens and other digital equipment added to the standards layout. Regardless now it looks like I’m making progress: the tank looks like a tank now. (With no gun barrel in this case.) One real complaint I have about the CMK set is that it provides no ammunition.
I’ve removed the external fuel tanks and reattached them with green stuff, as they did not sit level before. Now they look good. I will do the fuel lines a bit later on; I will use Legend’s photos as reference. (It feels somewhat like cheating, but there you go.)
I’ve added the Eduart engine deck grilles; they really do make the model stand out. It is kind of a shame to cover all that nice, shiny brass with paint.
The road wheels were also installed. Over the years, and through the long way this model travelled with me, the poly caps somehow went missing; this made installing the wheels somewhat of a challenge. I overstepped the problems simply by sticking a small amount of green stuff into the cavity where the poly caps should have gone, and glued the wheels in place; once the green stuff set, the wheels were absolutely solidly fixed in place. As I mentioned in part 2 I’m using a Trumpeter individual track set; since the AM version had at least three different types of tracks mounted over the year I’m not too fussed about the exact type. (And now I can look forward to a tornado of incoming angry comments.)
Problems with the Miniarm set
Building the Miniarm conversion I found it out to my great annoyance that the photo of the set on the box (and the advertisement) may contain a resin machine gun, but the set itself does not contain it. After reading the fine print I now understand that this photo shows of several sets on one model, but I find the inclusion of them on the cover quite misleading. (Kind of like the Armory T-72 conversion’s case where the armored shield was not included with the set.)
I guess I’ll stick to the original Tamiya gun (which is not half bad, actually); there is no way in hell I’ll buy another set for this build. It’s getting a bit expensive, even without Fruil tracks. (I’m using someone’s unused Trumpeter individual tracklinks.)
As a side-note: comparing the Tamiya MG to the MiniArt and Trumpeter versions of similar AA heavy machine guns, the MiniArt gun wins when it comes to detail, but the Tamiya is much simpler to assemble. The Trumpeter offering is somewhere in between, but pretty impressive when it comes to detail. (And it’s a different heavy machine gun, to be fair. We’re talking about detail and ease of assembly here.) Different philosophies I guess; I think on the long run the MiniArt version is better as it does look better, but when you’re getting short on patience during a complex and difficult build (which is entirely self-imposed in this case), the Tamiya gun is a bliss. I’ll have to get an ammunition belt though, as Tamiya does not supply it.
There are other inaccuracies as well: some of the smoke candles are already discharged on the cover photo, but you only get the full ones; and the gun barrel is different. Apart from the thermal jacket issue (mentioned below in great detail), the stock photos for the set show the resin piece at the end of the gun barrel to have interior rifling -which mine does not have. To be fair the gun is capable firing an anti-tank missile (which, amusingly, costs about half of what the tank itself costs), and if I’m not mistaken the gun is actually smooth-bore. Two storage boxes only have two sides each; not sure what Miniarm was thinking when they designed them. They literally miss two sides; if you really look close, you can see under them. At this point I just ignored the issue; it would be relatively simple to fabricate the missing sides, but I only had a single damn to give, and damn is gone now. (You can see the missing sides on the photos below.)
Another contentious issue with the Miniarm set is that the instructions are horrible. There are two parts to this. The first is that in many cases the small, photocopied photographs show nothing of how the parts should be placed. You kind of see where they go, but nothing else. I found myself using google to see if I can find reference photos of the set itself to help me with it.
The second problem is that the instructions are incomplete. The back of the turret is quite busy, but you don’t really get an explanation how to use the set to build it up. It’s not very clear how to assemble the holding braces for the AA machine gun for example. I also have a bunch of unused resin parts which don’t seem to be doing anything; I do not know where they are supposed to be going. This does annoy me because I paid for them; I’d like to know how to use them. Even when something is in the instructions, sometimes it does not tell you where to put the finished artifact. In step 2-4 you are instructed to produce a part from multiple small PE pieces, but then it does not tell you what to do with it. I realized long time into the build that it’s actually supposed to be on the right side of the back of the turret. (Walkaround photos…) Also the PE frame of the gunner’s sight is simply missing. It’s there on the photos, but the instructions are quite confusing, and instruct you to cut p23 to size and glue it to the side; p23 looks nothing like the picture, and in any case, it’s shorter than required. It’s also bent, so you can’t really fit it to the straight surface.
The saga of the gun barrel
I started to work on the gun barrel. Interestingly the gun barrel on the cover photo looks absolutely different from what you get in the kit; I find this quite odd, to be honest. There must have been different versions of the T-55AM with and without thermal jacket, but I still find it curious that you get something different than that is advertised on the box cover. (I don’t even mention the fact that the photo had a brass/copper barrel, while you get an ugly aluminum one.)
I was quite wary of this stage of the build; the thermal jacket on the barrel is made out of very tiny resin parts. Especially the tie-downs are horrid: you have wrap each end of the PE tie-downs around a thin, 1.5mm long wire, and connect the two ends with a similarly short piece of wire.
I made a huge mistake and did not anneal the PE with heat before starting to work with it; it was quite difficult to wrap them around the barrel.
I started with a relatively long piece of plastic rod (and in retrospect, a thick one), glued across multiple tie-downs; once the PE set, I wrapped them around the plastic one by one. It’s not a simple process, and unfortunately the CA glue did pile up around the tiny details.
Looking at the reference photos, though, you can’t fail to notice that no matter how thick the wire you use, it will look out-of scale on the model. (Too bad I found these photos after doing most of the work already.)
These pieces of wire are meant to be the bolts holding the tie-downs in place; and they are quite small in real life. Just look at this reference photo from an AM gun barrel’s advertisement:
Looking at these photos I had one option: I cut the plastic off, and simply used the PE straps by themselves. To be honest the straps on the real gun blend in so much I could probably get away with not using them at all. (My preferred option, but I like pain, so I went with trying to glue the straps on.) This is something that’s not the set’s fault: it’s a technically quite challenging part of the build. (To make the straps themselves more to scale, it would be best to simply use strips cut from aluminium foil; even the PE is too thick for it.)
The PE ridges along the top of the gun barrel are oversized compared to the real thing. Hopefully it will not be very noticeable; the gun barrel has re-formed slits where these need to be inserted, which might hide most of their width.
Trying the gun in the resin mantlet I could not help but notice that the fit is far from snug – there will be considerable amount of filler needed to hide the gaps. It also means I’ll need something more sturdy than CA to fix it in place. (I used the good ole’ green stuff; it fixes the gun into place, and acts as a filler at the same time.)
Miniarm does offer PE lightguards, but to be honest they are difficult to assemble (and require extra wire to add), and look quite unconvincing. These guards were made of about 1.5cm thick metal rods; PE looks quite flat compared to them. (Not to mention it looks weird to mix wire with PE when all components should really look the same.) I just used the Tamiya plastic parts; they are surprisingly good.
All these complaints about the Miniarm conversion by no means are deal-breakers, but they do temper my enthusiasm about it. The detail is impressive, the resin and PE are well designed, and good quality, but I think it’s better just to get the damned Takom kit and be done with it.
I’ve added all the other bits and bobs to the hull and the turret: the searchlights, various ammo boxes, handholds, wires, etc. Presently I’m looking at walkaround photos and the Takom instructions to figure out how to finish the back of the turret.
I should have finished the tracks before adding the top of the hull; this is the next big step now. The AM version had side-skirts protecting the tracks and the sides of the hull; before I add them I’ll need to install the tracks and paint the lower hull. (Which means I’ll have to learn how to use my Aztek airbrush first.) Once that is done, I can finish the sideskirts (a very daunting prospect since I can’t really make sense of the instructions at this time), and then I can at last paint this beast and be done with it.
So the saga continues. This is, by far, the most complex build I’ve attempted: several aftermarket sets are used parallel so mistakes are a possibility. Well, mistakes have been already made.
I’ve finished up the interior finally; the CMK set is done. There are considerable differences between the interior of the T-55A and the T-55AM I’m building with the Miniarm set; however I will ignore these for the sake of my sanity. To be honest it’s difficult to find good quality references for the interior of the AM, and this is the point where I give up; it’s a hobby after all.
The hull interior was relatively simple to finish; as I said in the previous post, there are a lot of shortcuts in the CMK kit, but then again, you can argue that most of it will not be visible, anyway. The driver’s station is especially devoid of extra instruments and whatnot you can see on photos. These videos by Wargaming are really useful: one is Chieftain’s “normal” inside the tank one, the other is a pretty cool virtual video. There is also a really good one here.
I also finished the turret interior. The bottom of the turret comes as a resin replacement; I did not realize it in time but the turret ring of the Tamiya kit is actually narrower than the CMK turret’s ring. This means cutting; not the best thing to do with all the fragile PE around, so make sure you do it first – unless you like challenges as much as I do.
The gun, the turret turning mechanism, radio, different electrical boxes, the handle, etc. went in fine. I took some liberties and used some parts from the Verlinden T-62 interior set -periscopes and whatnot. I also did some cabling using soldering wire painted black. They were placed mostly using a creative licence – the actual tank has way more cables all over the place. Once all was in place, I used some diluted filters on the white -mostly light browns, and added streaking to the sides with very subtle rust colors. Did not want to make it look like it was standing abandoned for decades, but I did want to add visually interesting details. Real tanks are remarkably free of rust and rust streaks; it’s a balancing act.
Once the bottom of the turret was safely in place over the top of the hull, I started to attach the Tamiya parts for the exterior. I have to say it was a joy compared to the aftermarket set- finally everything is clear-cut and simple! Until you realize you need the next conversion set, and now you have to figure out what’s needed from the Tamiya kit, and what needs to be replaced and altered. I also noticed I was a bit hasty closing in the hull- I should have fitted the road wheels and the tracks first; it will be a bit more difficult with the mud guards in place. Well, that’s a headache for later.
The Miniarm instructions are not very good, and sometimes they just don’t warn you about minor things, like the need for filling in certain holes on the Tamiya hull. The problem is in the front: the added frontal covers most of the front, but you need to fill in two small holes. It would have been simpler if I realized it before I glued the fragile plastic parts 1 mm from the holes in question. Oh well.
The mantlet cover also comes from the Miniarm set, which interferes with the CMK gun breach making it impossible to put the top of the turret in its place. The simple solution was to cut off the front of the gun breach. Of course trying to fit the turret, and figuring out the problem meant that the delicate PE parts of the ammo holder on the back of the turret got damaged. Frankly at this point I’m not sure I’ll fix them; very little will be visible anyhow. Another issue for the next day will be the CMK coaxial machine gun; it just does not line up with the Tamiya turret.
I also realized I made a mistake at this point with the loader’s hatch: I used the CMK replacement instead of the Miniarm one. They are slightly different, but what’s done is done. The fuel tanks are provided by Miniarm, too, but the casting blocs are very thin; it’s not easy to saw them off. I’m also not sure why some tool boxes are replaced, and why others are kept from the Tamiya set… Oh well.
So here we are now: the model now resembles an actual tank. (My wife says it looks like a sad, dopey-eyed vehicle.) Some detail painting is left in the turret interior, and then I can finally close it off.
I finally gave up, and bought Eduart’s engine deck grill set for the build; I hope it’s the last expense I have this with this model. It really annoys me Miniarm did not provide a set; after all, if you offer a conversion, you might as well throw in some improvements, too, saving costs for your customers. As I said the set is not cheap at all.
The next few steps will be the most painful ones: itsy-bitsy PE everywhere… That’s a story for the next post. I’m really looking forward to the painting phase.
Well, this is one old project. This is what actually happens if you start collecting and postpone the building – your precious collection becomes outdated because newer models are issued… (Or, if you decide NOT to collect, your most desired models become out of production, and you won’t ever be able to get them again – you simply cannot win this.)
I started to collect the parts way back in 2007, when I was still in the US. Since then of course, there are models of different T-54 variants with full (well, almost full) interior, we can expect the T-55 as well (it does make sense), and of course, there’s a perfectly good (and cheap) T-55AM available by Takom. Overall, I was considering just selling the whole thing -except for the CMK interior- and buying the Takom kit instead. After much deliberation I decided to keep the original; mostly for sentimental reasons. (This is what is going to happen with the upcoming King Tiger build… I already have everything to finish up the build, so I might as well proceed, pretending the full interior 1/35 plastic kit never happened.) Since I’ve been building T-44s and T-54s left and right, I wanted to make this model look distinct -so I did the rational (airquotes) thing, and bought the MiniArm conversion set for the same amount of money the whole Takom T-55AM costs. It still has no PE engine deck grilles, so that will be an interesting task; I am not prepared to spend more money on this build…
I was curious how the CMK set goes together. I have used the driver’s compartment part of the CMK kit for the T-44 I was building before; that part was quite familiar. Overall the set is quite good, but the instructions frankly are horrible when it comes to the ammo stowage. (It’s a shame no ammo was given with the set, by the way.) I also put the little box by the driver the wrong place; it should be a bit further back, but the instructions were not exactly clear on that part. I only noticed it when I got further down the line, and saw a drawing of the finished part.
The turret is quite busy- unfortunately CMK does not help with the cabling. The ammo boxes on the seat of the gunner are quite poor in detail; just a slab of rectangular resin. They should be individual ammo boxes for the coaxial MG sitting next to each other. (Similarly to the setup on step 69 on the T-54-1 instructions.)
The pre-heater for the engine cooler is also lacking detail- compared to MiniArt’s plastic interiors again. Normally it’s the other way around, but in this case the plastic model is actually more detailed than the resin one. If you’re prepared to spend money like crazy it might not be a bad idea to get a MiniArt T-54B and use the interior parts to “beef up” the CMK set. (It also provides the fuel lines for the external tanks, individual track links, and other details which are better than in the Tamiya kit.)
Since I wanted all this detail to be seen, I cut the side off the turret. It took me some time to decide what part, but at the end I settled for the left side; this will allow the interior show, without cutting away too many interesting things. (These tanks were cramped… similar cutaway will be much easier to do on the Tiger and Tiger II that are in the pipeline…)
Anyhow; Tamiya’s white, and the first layers of paint for the gun- that’s all for now. I’m moving to a new apartment, plus will be spending some time away, so the next update on this build will be in September most likely. I would like to make a dent on my collection of unbuilt kits, so there’s a Zvezda Pnz IV, a MiniArt Pnz III, and a DML Tiger I-II waiting to be built with full resin interiors. Not to mention the models I get for reviews, and the 1/72 stuff I still want to finish… (Modelcollect T-80, E-100 mobile rocket launcher, E-75 with interior, Hunor Nimrod, Airfix 1/12 Bentley and MiniArt T-60 with interior… And these are only the ones I can remember. My mother’s attic has a couple of really interesting models I also would like to build in the oncoming years- so subscribe, and keep your eyes on this page 🙂 )
The first part of this build can be found here, the second here, and the third here.
Well, the small dio is finally done. It’s been a long, long build. It took me more than a year back in the US to find the conversion set; I was lucky to grab it cheap from someone who gave up on it. It then sat in a box for the next couple of years, then brought back to Europe, and finally ended up in the UK. The actual build time was a couple of months; quite quick, really, but I did take a lot of shortcuts. These were mostly done out of necessity (of preserving my sanity); the set is not exactly user-friendly. The fit is poor at places, the instructions are horrid, and some parts are just plain impossible to do (like the installation of the turret ring). I’m not even mentioning the warped parts, like the gun barrel. (Wait, I just did…) So to save time, my already thinning hair, and money, I just rolled with what I had (with the exception of the gun barrel).
Anyhow, when all is said and done, it built up into a very inaccurate, but quite nice tank.
I tried to show a gradient of colors from back to front: burned out engine compartment dominated by rust colors, to the greenish hues of the frontal hull.
The figure also took a LOT of time to hunt down; unfortunately it is long out of production, so my best bet was to get lucky and buy one from someone. (This is a really good reminder of buying things when they are available. However, it also is a sure way of building up a stash that would shame a hobby store, so there is a delicate balance to be achieved here.)
And one final word about the photography, before the pictures. I’m using a Nikon D3300 with either the kit lens (when the subject is relatively large), or a Tamron 90mm macro lens. The models are placed in a collapsible light box, and lit up using two LED lamps from the side. The whole contraption is in the kitchen, with fluorescent overall lightning, which explains the difficulties to actually getting the colors right on the photos- the camera, no matter how smart it is, is having trouble with the white balance. I did take some photos during the day using the same setup, and the sunlight as an overall source of illumination; the difference is visible. I will set the white balance manually next time. The other issue I dislike is that the figure looks a bit glossy; when you look at it in real life, it is much more matte.
It’s a learning curve of taking photos, and it’s also a matter of convenience. Living in London means I have absolutely no space dedicated for model building, so everything needs to be set up in the kitchen when I build/take photos. Not very convenient.
So without further ado, here’s the finished STALKER diorama:
With the major building and painting finished, it was time to put the tank into context. Well, into a scene, that is.
I buy large plastic cases to keep my models in; they are excellent for display, protection against dust and curious fingers, and also make it easy to transport the models. In some cases I use them as small dioramas.
In the second part the tank was reasonably finished, but it was still somewhat uniform, despite of the layers upon layers of paints, paintchips, oil paints, filters and pigments. Now was time to bring out the sponge…
The technique is reasonably simple: dab the sponge (or the scrotch brite) into the paint, dab most of it off on a piece of paper, and then keep dabbing it against the surface you wish to cover with paint/paintchips. (Depending on the amount you cover you can depict paint chips or flaking off paint.)
I’ve used the external fuel tanks to experiment; unfortunately the box was not long enough for these to be mounted onto the tank…
First, I’ve used the sponge technique to make the uniform brown surface into a rusting, multicolored one.
Second step: using light green I repeated the process. (This color is excellent for paint chips, too.) It’s not a problem if it’s too light at this stage; in fact, it’s actually necessary- the subsequent washes, filters will darken the color anyway.
And finally, the result: I’ve used overall brown washes, which created a grimy, used look. Some more green was dabbed onto the barrels in a much smaller area, and voila – we have an interesting, rusting surface with different shades and colors.
The tank was glued onto the base using two part epoxy (it’s quite heavy because of all the resin and metal), and then I used Tamiya’s soil Diorama Texture Paint. (I’ve got it discounted when the largest hobby store chain in the UK went bust a couple of years ago.) The color is not exactly great, but we’ll help it a bit later using the airbrush.
Using the sponge method I’ve added green patches onto the turret and the front part of the tank- I wanted to achieve a color difference between the front and the back.
The paint was toned down with some brown filters.
I’ve used the leftover tracklinks from the MiniArt T-54-1 for the tracks; a lot of them don’t have teeth, since they are the special links for the ice-cleats, and they are also narrower than should be, but to be honest I did not want to spend money on extra tracks. Nobody will notice, unless they read the text.
I’ve bought some AK Interactive products online cheap (six bottles for twenty quids) – rust, different colored streaking products, washes, and one that simulates algae streaking… so I used this tank to try them all.
I’ve used more rust pigments on the turret and the side of the hull, and used a dark brown filter to tone down the contrast a bit. Black pigment was used sparingly to depict soot (my fiancee’s insistence) The way I use these pigments is to load a brush with Tamiya’s flat varnish, dab it into the pigments, dab most of it onto a piece of paper, and then dab it onto the surface of the model. You want to have some in the brush, but not too much; kind of like a heavy drybrush.
I’ve used some wine by Eduard to depict a creeper growing out of the driver’s compartment. The fallen leaves were made using the actual seed pod of a tree. Unfortunately I can’t figure out what it’s called; it looks like a fat caterpillar, and when you grind it up between your fingers, it falls apart into Marple-leaves like parts, and seeds. I mixed some white glue and water, added this plant material, and distributed onto the tank.
Last part is coming next week with the vegetation and the STALKER dude added
The tank needed to be burned out and rusty- something that stood abandoned (and looted) for years. I took a lot of liberties with the amount of rust and weathering -this degree of decomposition would only happen after decades. It’s an interesting point in our hobby: we tend to overemphasise the damage, the chipping, the rusting on most of the AFVs we build, which makes them interesting to look at, but quite unrealistic and out-of-scale. The point is: it’s not meant to be an exact replica of the real thing, it’s only a representation of an idea.
The idea here is a tank that had a catastrophic fire in the engine compartment, so it was abandoned in the Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl. (I wanted to use the STALKER figure, so it had to be Chernobyl. I could not come up with a realistic scenario why a T-62 would catch fire there, though, so you’ll have to use your imagination.)
Anyhow: after spraying on a base-coat of different rust colors, I proceeded to coat the tank with AK Interactive heavy chipping medium, and some NATO green from Tamiya. Once it was dry to the touch I created areas where the paint was worn off to differing degrees: more on the back and on the thinner metallic parts, and less on the front, where the fire did not heat the hull up that much.
Once the chips were done I sealed everything with varnish.
I put the tank onto the base of the display case I intended to use and realized that it was too long for the external fuel tanks to be mounted… I could have turned the turret around if I had not used epoxy glue to stick it onto the hull… Oh well, more battle damage.
I’ve used ochre and dark brown filters on the whole of the vehicle, and some burned umber washes to deepen the shadows in the crevices.
I’ve glued the tank onto the base using epoxy glue, and mixed some sand with plaster to create a rudimentary terrain; this will -hopefully- be refined further. (As soon as I get some replacement tracks for the tank, of course.)
While we’re waiting for the groundwork to be finished, I went on to further enhance the rusty feel for the tank: I used three different colors of iron oxide (it comes in brown, red and yellow, and dabbed it on using a brush and some flat varnish.
I’ve also tried Lifecolor’s rust wash set to see how it works; I suspect an airbrush would be a better way of handling it. (It is not easy to use. Well, it’s easy to use, what’s not easy is to get results like you see on the cover. Unfortunately there’s no real guide provided.)
They suggest glossy surface, however it tends to form droplets which is not ideal. (Surface tension is not always useful.)
I’ve checked out the storage box on a museum Shilka, and it was pretty much pure rust… so this is how the tool boxes will look once I’m done with it.
Some more rust over the burned areas will also be necessary, and also soot. It’s a good question how much soot actually remains after years of being subjected to the elements, but this will not deter me from adding some. In fact I’ve long been wanting to add white soot left over from the burning rubber rims of the roadwheels. I’m fairly certain this would be washed away by the rain in a short order in real life, but I shall not pay attention to this issue.
Anyhow, this is how it is as of now. Keep tuned in; updates will be coming (soonish).
For the last post of the year: the Tamiya T-62 and the Verlinden set that comes with it.
It’s old shelf-queen as well… sitting in a box since 2004. Time to finish her royal highness. (Or, as it turned out later, a royal pain in the neck.)
I did not have any concept for this build, until I finally got that elusive STALKER figure I’ve been searching for for the last seven years. (This was an object lesson: even though you are buying stuff you don’t need, hence increasing the stash you have in your closet, certain things, like resin models are a must-buy when they are available. Once they become out of production, you’ll end up trying to snatch them up on Ebay, and beg on online forums if anyone has a leftover set somewhere.) Bringing these two together I have decided to do a STALKER style diorama with a burned-out, rusting tank. I’m not entirely sure what destroyed the tank; a catastrophic explosion was one option, since the Verlinden set allowed it (theoretically), but for reasons listed below I went with the simple “burned out engine compartment and abandoned” tank instead. One of the reasons was the lack of heavy fighting in the Chernobyl exclusion zone that would cause a tank to explode. The other, less glamorous reason was the difficulty of inserting the resin turret ring into the Tamiya upper hull…
This Verlinden set caught my attention way back in 2004, when my focus shifted towards armored vehicles. Back in those days, children, you could actually buy stuff on ebay from other people, as it was not the exclusive playground of professional vendors. That was a long, long time ago. You could even buy cheap models back in those good ole’ days from fellow modellers! (I know, heresy.)
Anyhow, I really wanted this Verlinden conversion; after all, it featured the interior of the T-62, it was full of metal and resin; what can go wrong, right?
Little did I know. I should have suspected something was awry when an American gentleman essentially threw this kit at me- I got it for less than 10 dollars (with shipping). Ten dollars of PE and resin; quite a lot of it, actually.
What you do not get a lot of, however, is the instructions…
There was a very quick reality check that I should set my sights lower than this diorama. One prominent issue is the disparity in skills, the other is, well, the conversion/base kit itself.
There are several problems with the Tamiya kit- it’s an old, motorized, inaccurate model, and quite simple at that. The Verlinden set looks incredible- but has the same inaccurate turret, and, quite frankly, takes superhuman efforts to assemble. The instructions were abysmal, the gun barrel was 90 degrees bent, the fit in cases was horrible; after a while I just threw the towel in, and decided to use whatever I can, leave out everything else. I also decided early on against trying to be accurate… So yeah; this model is not going to satisfy any rivet counting tendencies you or I might be harbouring. Let’s just say it’s an “impression” of a T-62 rusting on the field.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to belittle this conversion set. I will constantly bitch and moan about the difficulties that I ran into, but I think it is useful to be aware of them if you decide to pick this set up. Never once I felt frustrated during the building state; I accepted that if something does not fit or makes sense, I just move on, and ignore the problem. It is incredible set, but you really, really need to be good and extremely dedicated to bring out most of it. It was a learning process for me. I realized what I always knew: I do not like to spend time on challenging builds that are challenging due to poor instructions, poor alignment, and fit. I thoroughly enjoyed MiniArt’s D7 dozer, even though it was a difficult kit. It was a challenge in complexity, and not bad engineering. I never felt I was suffering because the designer wanted to throw a curveball at me, or did not think something through, so I did not mind the effort I put into it. In this case I just simply gave up on a lot of things. Someone who has better skills and more patient can bring out much more of this kit than I can.
That being said… one thing that really, really irked me about the instructions was the frontal mudguard. It shown the original Tamiya part with the plastic mudguard left on when it described what to cut off, and never once indicated that PE replacements are provided. It took me quite a long time to actually realize that it can be changed to a metal one, but by that time the hull was assembled. Beh. The other big issue was the fit of the engine compartment. You need to saw off the back of the hull (it was quite an intense few minutes to get myself going with the saw), and the engine compartment/back hull needs to be glued to the original plastic one. Well, it’s a couple of millimetres wider.
As glue I mostly used epoxy glue, because it is stronger than cyanoacrylate; and I used green stuff as putty to increase the strength of the bond even more.
The mudguards were attached with superglue first, then reinforced with epoxy glue; they are very stiff, and hard to bend. (I did some “battle damage” using a cutter, and it took me considerable effort to cut and bend the metal. Not sure what would cause damage like this in this particular case, but I always wanted to try it, and here was the perfect opportunity.) Same with the tool boxes: the tops were bent and damaged.
The interior has some issues as well: the back firewall is missing, and it’s quite visible even if you peek through the hatches; same with the driver’s compartments’ floor. I’ve used some Evergreen plastic to fill these areas out.
I’ve left several parts of the transmission out -so that the rest can be visible, and added some fuel lines to the engine. The exhaust pipes are made out of PE which is odd.
I thought about depicting a tank that exploded and threw the turret off; the plans, however, died in their infancy. For one, the Tamiya hull had to be cut so that it could accommodate the resin turret ring. I did not feel the resolve to start cutting a large, circular hole. I did not wish to invest in the necessary tools, and doing it free-hand… well, that’s above my skills.
The other main problem was the confusing turret interior layout. The instructions are horrible showing what goes where, and not many people have built and posted photos of this set, so I could not find good reference photos, either. Now, I could have researched the interior of the T-62 using the few black and white photos, and then painstakingly recreate it, but I have shrunk from this challenge.
The turret stays on. I added the gun (but left off most of the components of the gun), bought an aluminium gun barrel (as I did not wish to depict a tank that can only fight in the corners due to the 90 degree bend in its gun), and called it a day.
As for the gun. Normally burned-out tanks have their gun sagging down, as most of the mechanisms holding it in balance are destroyed during the fire. Well, the incorrectly shaped, shallow Verlinden turret and the massive gun breach actually guarantees that the tank does not have any room to depress its gun. In fact it cannot even keep it level- it has a quite steep elevation. In other words this T-62 can only shoot at the stars, because sure as hell it would not be able to depress its gun at anything lower than the sky.
The different vision ports, etc, were also a bit problematic to fit into/onto the turret- the holes were generally larger than the parts themselves. A bit annoying, really. The last problem with the turret: the Tamiya hatches. Russian tanks have quite an elaborate interior hatch structure, which are not replicated on the Tamiya model; I was not sure how it was supposed to be depicted using the Verlinden set. (No instructions, remember?) After a little thinking I just glued the seat pads onto them, so they look like a traditional, WWII hatch with padding. I know it’s not accurate, but as I said: I realized I need to compromise if I want to finish this kit in this century.
I’ve decided -again- not to bother trying to assemble the machine gun from the 30 odd resin and PE pieces, or use Tamiya’s plastic one- after all, the weapons would probably be removed from the abandoned vehicle. Same with most of the storage boxes and tools.
The roadwheels provided by Verlinden have a nice burned-look (no rubber left), but the holes are actually solid. I’ve opted not to open them up; time and sanity saving measures. With a rotary tool it would be reasonably fast, but I don’t have one in the UK, and it’s not very healthy to work with resin dust, anyhow. Talking about roadwheels… I wanted to reposition the swing arms for the suspension, but it was almost impossible to simply cut them off the hull; Tamiya made sure they are very solidly attached to the lower hull. This is important because torsion bars would lose their flexibility once the fire weakens them, and the whole tank would just “sit” on the ground. Well, this one will not.
Painting was done in several steps. First, to check for seams I painted the whole of the bottom hull with different shades of rust- this was also to be a nice base layer for chipping.
Once I was satisfied with everything came the interior- using hairspray technique. AK’s Heavy Chipping fluid and Tamiya’s white were chosen. Once I was satisfied with the amount of chipping, I waited a day and sealed the paint with some varnish. I used some oil washes to do filters and some streaking, but overall I was not unduly worried about the interior, since I decided by that point that it will not be open to the elements. I did add some leaves and some dirt, though.
Once I tried the top of the hull on I realized that about 0.5cm of the interior’s walls are on the top- and they were not painted and weathered. So back to the rust/white chipping. Unfortunately they do not look uniform. (Apart from the seam between the upper and lower hull, there are color differences.)
Well, this is where we are now. The assembly is essentially over, and now it’s “just” the painting and weathering. It’s going to be quite a learning process; the first ever rusted tank I’m building. Keep tuned in- it’s going to be an interesting ride.
I was curious how some chipping methods compare, so I did some experiments. Since the old hairspray I used ran out, and I could not get a similar product, I switched to the AK chipping fluid. (Not all hairsprays are the same when it comes to chipping; if you find something that works, stick to it.)
I also wanted to see how the Windex chipping technique works, and what the Mig Ammo washable white paint does. It’s not a comprehensive tutorial by any means, but I hope others find it useful.
There’s a nice summary of the hairspray technique on another blog, so I won’t be taking up much space with it. It essentially works by forming a water soluble layer between two paint layers, which makes a chipping effect once water is applied and slightly macerated with a stiff brush or toothpick. It can be applied to simulate paint chips or worn white wash; I used white in this case. With the AK Interactive product there’s a time factor: the earlier you do the chipping after the paint is dried, the larger the chips are; the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to remove the top layer. This can be used for your advantage, as it also allows you to use it in conjunction with the Windex chipping technique.
This is something relatively new. I’ve read about it in the Single Model series (02) by Rinaldi Studio Press. This technique depends on the fact that ammonia dissolves Tamiya (and supposedly similar acrylic) paints. You essentially dissolve the top layer with a 1-3% ammonia solution. (Windex and similar cleaning products contain ammonia; you can even buy ammonia by itself, and it would work just as fine.) The higher the ammonia concentration, the easier you remove the top paint layer, so it’s worth being patient and using less concentrated solutions. I used to use Windex as a solvent and airbrush cleaner; it seems like it’s great for chips as well. The effect is much more subtle than the hairspray technique’s: it produces smaller chips, and the effect is more like rubbed-off paint.
Mig Ammo washable white
It’s essentially a white paint that can be spray painted and then washed off after drying. It does not form chips as it is; it’s more like a whitish translucent overcoat. The paint should not be diluted much (one or two drops of water, tops), as it would spray very dilute. (It took a while to figure out why it behaves like a wash when I sprayed it… The Lowe I did was the test piece, and I had to try three times before I realized I needed to keep the dilution low. It’s quite thick, so some dilution is necessary, but not much.) I’m not sure it stays washable after a prolonged period of time; it probably does.
Onto the test…
So I prepared my trusty Pnz IV mudguards with a green layer of paint, and sealed it with Dullcote. (So that it protects the paint from the ammonia.) The next layer was Tamiya’s flat white.
I divided up the segments, and got working. (I forgot to take a photo before I started to work on the AK Interactive chipping fluid. Imagine it white.)
AK Interactive Chipping fluid
I used a wet brush on the surface, and then gently a toothpick to nick the surface. The nicks were enlarged with a large, relatively stiff wet brush.
The resulting chips are giving a stark contrast between the white and the underlying green.
Mig Ammo Washable White
The paint is very thick and kind of shiny once on the surface (you can see this on the photo). After a little drying period, I used a wet brush with a downward motion to remove the paint. It got dissolved, and smeared over the surface. The residual paint formed an uneven layer over the green paint, making the surface look worn. No chips, but realistic worn effect.
The Windex Chipping method
I prepared a ~2% Ammonia solution using a kitchen cleaning product, and used a brush to wet the surface with it. I waited a minute or two and then gently rubbed the brush against the surface. For a long time nothing seemed to happen, but after a while I got a very nice, realistic chipping effect. It’s an important thing to point out: the effect is very gradual; for a while it really does look like nothing is happening. Some foam appears, but that’s it. Don’t push the brush down (now I’m rapping about modelling), as it might lift up the base layer as well.
You can see the same technique used to recreate rust on the electric mule I built not long ago. The square parts are about 0.5cm long. Unfortunately the photo is not the best (the most interesting part is out of focus), but the effect can still be judged: tiny, minuscule chips and general look of wear-and-tear. Pretty good, I’d say.
AK Interactive Chipping fluid and Windex combined
The fourth section was first treated with the AK Interactive chipping fluid, did the chips, then waited a couple of days. (It was probably close to a week, if I recall correctly.) The next step was to use the Windex method on the same section, forming smaller chips. The effects are subtle next to the large chips, but you can see how the paint rubbed off the edges and other areas sticking out. It also formed very tiny little chips between the larger ones, making the effect a bit more realistic. The Windex effects complements the larger chips of the previous method quite nicely. Due to dissolving the white color, it also deposited some on the green undercoat, making the contrast less pronounced in some areas. (Not all and not evenly.)
So there is it.
I think the washable paint looks good as a very worn winter whitewash on its own. If you use hairspray chipping for whitewash it would also be very useful to tone down the stark contrast between the underlying paint and the white on top.
The Windex method is great for subtle chips, but it also complements the larger hairspray chipping.
This, of course, is not limited to whitewashes; excellent chips can be done using a rust undercolor, or even a variation of the main color. (Green on green chips, camo pattern chips, etc.) Your imagination is the limit.
There are more than one ways to skin a cat, so these are not the definitive methods; there are other ones as well. AK Interactive just came out with a solution that makes any acrylic paint washable; the this opens up a large potential of uses from dust to worn paint. I have ordered it, so when I have some time I’ll see what it can do, and post the results.
(Here’s an imgur album for the photos- they are hopefully larger than the wordpress versions.)
Well, this has been a long, arduous trip. It was one of those models where you lose inspiration, you make mistakes, and it feels more and more frustrating to spend time on, rather than on a more rewarding project -and not because of any fault of the model itself. It was just one of those builds I guess. I had no clear conception where I want to end up, I made some mistakes, and it felt like a choir trying to push forward. The end result however, was surprisingly nice. So this is the story of the poor, neglected Lowe.
The Löwe was a 90 ton super heavy tank, which was planned -but never built- by Nazi Germany. It was superseded by the even heavier Maus- which actually did get built. Along with the super heavy members of the Entwicklung series, these gigantic tank design programs demonstrate some of the lunacy of the direction WWII tank design took to in Germany during the second half of the war: embarking on even more and more ambitious tank projects in search for a war-winning superweapon, consuming valuable resources and manpower, while the fronts were collapsing all around them. It did give us some nice-looking tank models, though, so there is some silver lining.
Disclaimer: I’ve used my review in Armorama for some of the text.
The plastic parts are well done, apart from some minor problems. Overall I found the quality of parts, the detail, etc. on par with the Eastern Express/UM/Roden offerings: not very good, but not bad, either. The detail, in general, is good; certainly not soft, but don’t expect DML quality. There is very little flash. The model could use some extra detailing; one of the things I would have liked to do was to replace the periscope covers with photo etched ones. (They are simple molded-on blocks. Armory produces excellent quality periscope covers for the King Tiger, which would probably serve well as substitute.) The one thing I really missed is the depiction of the interlocking armor plates on the upper hull. The hull was (to be) originally constructed by welding slabs of armor together, and the points where these armor plates meet should be visible (you can see this on the hull of the Tiger, and Tiger II, for example). It would have been nice to have these details molded onto the hull. It’s possible to carve them out, but I decided not to bother with them. Some parts you will have to create yourself; you will need some wire for the towing cables, for example. (You can get some wire used to hang pictures from art stores.)
The only real problem I found was the engine deck. The grills have several casting imperfections (see photo above), where plastic got into the perforated parts; if you want to open them up, you will have to work very carefully with a very thin scalpel. I attempted, but quickly decided to leave them as they were- did not want to risk the delicate plastic detail. I assume the vehicle would have had screens over the engine deck, just as the Tiger I and Tiger II did; these would have been great additions to the model. (I tried to find aftermarket 1/72 scale Tiger II grille screens, but the only one set I managed to find was sold out everywhere.)
The tracks are flexible, and made out of several segments. The detail is somewhat soft on the inner side; again not a big problem. This solution of segmented flexible tracks is an interesting combination of the link-and-length plastic tracks and the “rubber band” style tracks. It makes it easier to install them, but alignment is a problem – in fact it is kind of a nightmare. A set of PE tracks would have been really nice (although this is a bit too much to ask for this price I admit), or at least some plastic alternatives. All in all, the kit could use some more brass. As for tracks and engine deck grilles I’m happy to report that Armory has came out not long ago with an updated version of this kit, which alleviates all these issues.
Finally, the modeller gets an option of building a “historical” model (whatever it means in this context), or the World of Tanks version of the vehicle (you get the very characteristic muzzle break from the game, and a different engine hatch on the back panel).
Instructions are well done, and easy to follow, but the first part of the build is a bit challenging if you follow them. The hull has to be assembled from multiple parts (as usual in these kits). The issue is that if you follow the instructions, the hull parts will not fit. Once you assembled the “tub” that makes up the lower part of the hull, you are supposed to glue the fenders onto the sides, and finally place the upper part of the hull on top of this. The plastic parts are on the thick side, and the guiding ridges are not perfectly placed onto the fenders. Despite of how small these differences are, they do add up. When you put the lower and the upper part of the hull together, there will be a gap on the front where these two halves should meet.
The best –and quite easy- way to get around this problem is to do some surgery first, and to deviate from the instructions. First, thin the sides of the top part of the hull from the inside a bit (for an easier fit into the grooves molded onto the mudguards). Glue the back panel, the top and the bottom parts together first (parts 1, 24, 35), creating the overall shape of the tank (see photos) without the sides.
This way the top and bottom will touch in the front. This is the time to use some filler to make sure the attachment points on the back and the front are smooth, and there are no seams anywhere.
Sand off the guiding ridges from the side parts (parts 34, 36) of the hull, and glue them in place. Cut away the guiding ridges from the sides of the fenders (parts 23, 25). It is necessary, as they are supposed to go on top of the side panels, locking together with the ridges on those parts, fitting between the two hull halves. Unfortunately there is not enough space. The fenders themselves are not thin enough to fit, but this will not be an issue if you remove these ridges. (It would have been more fortunate if the fenders were made of PE.) Glue the fenders in place, and you are almost finished with the build.
The other issue I had with the kit was that the attachment of the back panel is a bit unfortunate. Usually the top of the hull goes over the back panel, covering it. This follows the original way of construction, and does not break the upper surface with an extra seam. In this kit, however, the back panel is placed behind the top part, creating an extra seam on the top of the hull. This, unfortunately, needs to be eliminated with filler.
The turret has a strange, round shape, which is very uncharacteristic of the usual angular German designs. It is made out of three parts: the main part of the turret (part 2), the frontal bit under the gun mantlet (part 6), and the bottom part, which will not be seen (part 17). This bottom part has two invaginations which should fit with the two little pegs molded onto the smaller, frontal part of the turret, but they are too small for the actual parts. You will have to enlarge them with a scalpel. It’s not a major surgery, and as it will be hidden under the turret, it will not impact on how the model will look. The rest of the kit falls together without any problems whatsoever.
I have finished the model to the point of weathering for this review. A couple of details are missing (the towing lines, for example, as I will need to fashion one later). Photos of the finished model will be posted in the World of Tanks campaign forum.
I’ve given the tank an uniform German grey color, before attaching all the equipment, tools, etc to the hull.
At this point I kind of lost my motivation to go ahead. I had other projects, and I felt a bit stalled; I was not sure what direction I would like to take the model.
After spending a year in a box (I’ve moved to London, I’ve had other worries) I dusted the Lowe off, and gave a hard thought of what sort of a paintjob I wanted to give it. I settled with the octopus-pattern, which I’ve seen on some fictional 1946 designs. The build stalled even further as I had no idea how to achieve this finish…
The next breakthrough was when I spotted a punch set in a charity shop; I managed to make little rings out of masking tape. They were not exactly good, but I went ahead, nevertheless as I wanted to get the painting over with.
The results were disappointing to say the least. The masking tape rings were not good enough, and I’ve used Mig’s paints for the first time without reading about them. I assumed they are to be used the same manner as Tamiya paints; well, I was wrong. Nevertheless at this point all I saw was that the paint behaved weirdly, and I really, really hated it. (Since then I actually learned to use it properly.)
The other thing I’ve failed to consider in my rush to finish the build was the scale effect: the model had a really bad, very strong contrast. (The colors should have been “toned down” in this scale.) Needless to say I went on working on more successful projects; nobody likes to be reminded of mucking things up.
The next step -after standing like this in my “half-finished” box, I’ve decided to give it a winter whitewash; to use the model for practising -and to finish it finally; and this I did. I’ve covered the Lowe with dullcoat, and used Tamiya white in several light, irregular layers. About 30 minutes later I’ve brought out my ammonia-containing cleaning product, and proceeded to do some practice on the Windex chipping method. This relies on the fact that ammonia dissolves Tamiya paints, and by preparing a 2-3% solution you can carefully remove some of it with a brush. (It’s a process that can be controlled surprisingly well.) It creates much subtler chips than chipping solutions/hairspray technique.
Once the whitewash was on and made look worn, I was in the finish. The model finally looked like a proper model, all past mistakes corrected or hidden away, and even the octopus camo pattern looked good under the whitewash. The emotional roller-coaster was high again. Some white pigments (chalk ground up) in water was used on the fenders and the back of the engine compartment to simulate accumulated snow.
Since it was a winter vehicle I wanted to make it looked dirtied up. Winter slush is dark, almost black. I’ve used oil paints as a slurry, and to make it look even dirtier and disgusting I’ve put some green in the mixture as well. I’ve used MiniArt’s painting guide to the SU-122 as an inspiration: the winter camo (“Rudolph, the red topped SPG”) option is quite dirty and covered in this dark, blackish much.
I dabbed the oils on using a large brush, and used a clean, wet brush to “wash back”, and remove the excess from the top part of the hull, and other regions where I judged the dirt to be too much. The brush then -since it had some pigments trapped in it already- was dabbed onto the turret and other “lightly” soiled areas.
Essentially this was it. The moral of this story is essentially this: despite of all my efforts to mess it up, I managed to make something resembling a presentable tank out of this model.